On Sun, Mar 05, 2006 at 10:45:47PM +0200, Fabian Fagerholm wrote:
1. Is Debian affected by what happens in the FOSS world in general? How? Please give examples if you can.
Debian is very much affected by the FOSS world in general. The biggest example I can think of is the patent regulations that were used to attack the free mp3 encoding programs. Because of that patent threat, Debian is very careful about the kind of mp3 support it ships by default.
2. Has the definition (written or implied) of freedom in Debian changed over the years? How?
I don't think it has changed. Debian was always about freedom and transparency for the users, while understanding that the project itself was not necessarily a democracy and that some internal issues would stay hidden from the public. It is the software, bug reports, and actual developement process that is open, has been open from the beginning, and will stay open as long as the project is called "Debian GNU/Linux". Our politics are as open as they can be. For instance, we don't go around shouting to the world who all the deep pockets are that are sponsoring us. We have a private mailing list for developers only. I don't think these are bad things.
3. Is the understanding of freedom in Debian up to date with regard to the current state of the world? How does this show?
Debian "feels" less libertarian now than it did eight years ago. Back in the day, it was unheard of for Debian Developers to be banished from Debian's mailing lists and official IRC channels just because of a personals political, social, or religious viewpoint. These things have been happening more and more frequently, leading to a perception of creeping authoritarianism. Debian is big enough that a class of developers have arisen who are more into the politics of the game than into executing a beautiful bit of code and sharing it with the world.
4. Does Debian have a good relationship with well-known organisations such as FSF, Creative Commons or <insert your own example(s) here>? Why/why not?
Debian has always been fairly neutral toward other projects. Each developer is an ambassador of the project. Some vocal developers may complain about Ubuntu; but the vast majority have been very positive toward it. I like to think that, even though we've allowed Thomas Bushnell to be a Debian Developer, that hasn't compromised our relationship with the FSF. Our relationship with the FSF isn't as close as it could be, and I'd like to see that change. We are a distinct and independant project from the FSF, and in the early days we worked hard to make sure that distinction was clear, but being the official GNU distribution is a pretty cool thing, worth keeping.
5. As DPL, what would you rather work on in your vision-defining capacity: defining a special Debian-freedom, or encouraging Debian to embrace other definitions? Why and how?
I like the vision we've always had. It doesn't need updating. Openness and transparency toward our users, and complete independance for our developers to participate in the policy making process and to maintain their packages however they see fit, as long as they fit with policy.
Finally, please tell us as much as you want about what has led you towards Debian and free software instead of non-free alternatives. Why have you taken this path in life? Why is it important to you personally?
When I was in high school, everyone was switching from MSDOS to Microsoft Windows. I started with a Commodore 64. This was cool, because I could program anything on it. And because every program came in source code form, I assumed this was how computing was done. I liked being able to look at other peoples source code to see how things were done. When I made the switch to MSDOS, I felt alienated. Where was the source code? Where did these binary blobs come from? Who made them and how? Someone showed me QWBASIC. It felt very limited and confining compared to all the multimedia and graphics facilities of the C64. Then high school started and I had free access to the Borland Turbo family of languages, so I grudgingly adapted to a world where I could program if I really wanted to, but where it wasn't easy. Borland at least took most of the pain away with their excellent documentation. The thing that Borland did right, which Richard Stevens copied in his famous books, was to give a really clear and obvious example of HOW to use each function in the API. You could cut and paste the code from the help page, compile it, and it would just work. Debian isn't quite at that level yet, but over the years I've noticed certain key API functions now have sample code snippets, which is a good thing. When the high school switched to Windows, that was the final straw. Here was this GUI, finally they added some graphical facilities to DOS, and the interfaces were all locked away! I was a broke high school student from a family struggling with a mortgage. I couldn't afford the $3000 for a Microsoft developers kit. Having experienced the freedom of being able to program MY computer the way I wanted, I couldn't tolerate the arrogance of Microsoft in locking up their machines tighter than the hood of a Rolls Royce. At least Rolls Royce has an excuse; their cars are kick-ass. Just then, around 1993, the buzz around Linux was immense. So I started downloading it. Being broke, in a small blue-collar town far away from any sizeable college, it took a while to figure out how to program Linux, but I stuck with it. The freedom of having the source code to every single thing on the system was worth more than the agony of learning a system from scratch that was far more complex than my simple C64. So here we are. And I want to share my freedom with YOU. I think Python today is almost at a point where it is as fun to use as Commodore Basic was. All that is missing is the Borland style examples, but many Python modules even have those in their main() routine. We just need some simple routines to put pixels on the screen and push sound samples out to the video card, and we're gold. I was hoping Scheme or LISP would be it, but Python and now Ruby look like they are winning. It a long time, but we're finally getting to the point we were at twenty years ago. Ted --It's not true unless it makes you laugh, but you don't understand it until it makes you weep.
Eukleia: Ted Walther Address: 5690 Pioneer Ave, Burnaby, BC V5H2X6 (Canada) Contact: 604-430-4973
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